TRAVERSE CITY — Cherry season is upon us and as early as this weekend you could find local cherries at roadside stands, farm markets and grocery stores.
This versatile little fruit pairs beautifully with savory and sweet recipes and it’s good for you, too. If you’re a cherry cuisine neophyte, the first thing you need to know is that there are two different kinds of cherries: tart and sweet.
It’s best to eat sweets out of hand as soon as possible, but they can be stored in the refrigerator seven to 10 days, said Heidi Friske, general manager of Friske Orchards Farm Market near Ellsworth. They’re also delicious in a fruit salad partnered with cantaloupes and grapes and can be frozen or canned for later use.
“They aren’t as fragile as a berry so they keep longer in the refrigerator,” Friske said. “They do need some moisture and need to breath.”
Tarts, also called pie cherries or sour cherries, can be purchased fresh but are generally used canned, frozen, dried or made into a juice concentrate shortly after harvest. They’re baked into pies, crisps and cobblers and cooked into jams and jellies. Dried cherries are perfect for tossing on cereal or into baked goods.
“Fresh tarts are more tender and have a shorter season,” said Friske, whose market sells both fresh tart cherries with pits and frozen pitted cherries, along with an array of cherry pitters.
Cherry goodies at the market range from a sweet cherry jam to dried Balaton cherries coated in dark chocolate. Cherry pies are an iconic favorite and Friske said that the best way to create that perfect pie is to cook the filling first.
“We use the IQF (individually quick frozen) cherries and if you cook, not boil, the filling until it’s clear, you will have the optimal result,” she said.